I treated myself to an “Artist Date” last Saturday. Please know that every manly fiber in my being protested that first sentence. It has a very Oprah ring to it. (It wasn’t Oprah…it’s Julia Cameron’s fault.) That first sentence tromps all over so many norms I’ve allowed to grow up around my life and work.
From very early on in our childhood, all of us have submitted something we have created to the harsh lights of the public. A stick figure drawing shown to a friend. A color book sheet submitted to the refrigerator exhibit in the kitchen of your childhood home. Homework or exams turned in to the teacher seated in the front of the room.
Some of those creations from our childhood days of naive confidence were received with encouragement and affirmation. Some were ignored. Some were ridiculed and pronounced as “dumb” or “you traced that!” or “what is that?” Some were judged based on the harsh scale of a grading system.
And so, more and more we decided not to submit our “art” to the public. We decided it wasn’t worth the risk. But, what tends to happen is that much like a plant that is stored in a closet, the impulses begin to wither and die. We assume that creative impulse is for someone else. Very early on, we begin to reserve the term “artist” for those other people who can draw better than us or write better than us or sing better than us or play an instrument better than us. And there is always someone better.
So, why an “Artist Date”? A couple of personal reasons. I rediscovered the first 5 words of my copy of the Old Testament the other day: “In the beginning, God created…” —Genesis 1:1. And when I got on down to vs. 26, I read, “Let us create humankind in our own image…”. It really seemed pretty obvious that if I’m created in the creator’s image I might just be creative too. Simple to the point of simplistic, but it was a good place for me to start.
The next reason was I heard yet another “artist” I highly respect refer to some practices they discovered in a book that I’ve heard mentioned dozens of times by other artists I respect. Through the magic of my Kindle and my purchase impulse, I downloaded “The Artist’s Way” immediately. The first two practices introduced very early in the book are Daily Pages and Artist Date.
The Daily pages are 3 hand written pages of stream of consciousness thoughts for no ones else’s consumption. Technically, not even my own. Its sort of a written form of meditation. I’m about 30 pages into that practice and it is challenging but very rewarding. The Artist’s Date is something I haven’t fully wrapped my head around yet. It’s a block of time set aside each week to nurture one’s “inner artist”. (The Oprah gag reflex is rising up again…but I’m holding it together!)
So one Saturday, a week into my reading of this book, I packed up my journal and my camera, got on my motorcycle and rode up to Sewanee via Roark’s Cove road for my first Artist date. I took photos of the cars on the way up. I stopped at the Blue Chair Cafe for a bowl of oatmeal and some coffee, and then continued to the Sewanee Natural Bridge with a stop by the cemetery and a short visit to Mr. Garner’s grave.
I humbly present some of my photographs from that day as well as these reflections to the harsh judgement of the internet. But I also am indirectly submitting the creativity of those who informed my little artist date: the artist who installed our small version of the “Cadillac Ranch” on Roark’s Cove Road; the graffiti artists who did their thing on those cars; the creativity of the Blue Chair Cafe offering up great food and atmosphere for all who enter; Mr. Garner who someone recognized as “the best damn moonshiner who ever lived” and all the creativity involved to earn such a title; the stone carver who created the monument commemorating Mr. Garner’s art; the person who created the cherub perched on top of the neighboring marker; and finally the great Creator who provided the Sewanee Natural bridge and the trail I was able to hike and contemplate the other natural art on display.
I would also like to challenge all of you to nurture your own inner artists. Creativity is what moves us forward in the world. It provides fresh perspectives on everyday things we tend to take for granted. Exercising those impulses strengthens muscles that we need in our everyday lives. And having the courage to share your creativity boosts all of our courage to do the same.
Create something strictly for your eyes only. Or, How are you going to reach that kid that isn’t interested in school? How can you increase the efficiency of this jet engine your team has been tasked to design? What’s made your lawn mower difficult to start? How could you make that birthday cake reflect that little girl’s personality? What’s the win/win solution to the conflict you are having with your friend/spouse/coworker/democrat/republican? Etc.
All of these questions are answered through creativity. And all of the human beings involved have been made creative by their Creator. Go get ‘um.